«Russian Music For Baritone, Cello And Piano”
|Alexander Profirevich Borodin||
Razlyubila krasna devitsa (The Pretty Girl No Longer Loves Me),
The Lovely Fisherwoman,
Slushayte, podruzhen'ki, pesenku moyu (Listen to My Song, Little Friend).
|Alexander Sergeyevich Dargomïzhsky||
I am sad …,
The Night Zephyr,
The Youth and the Maiden.
Cradle Song (Berceuse),
Gde nasha Roza (Where is our Rose)?,
Do Not Tempt Me Needlessly (Elegy),
|Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky||Sorochintsy Fair: Gopak (Hopak, Gopak of joyfull fellows).|
|Sergei Sergeievitch Prokofiev||Chout, Op.21 (ballet in 6 scenes) (The Tale of the Buffoon).|
|Sergey Vassilievich Rachmaninov||
Morceaux de Fantaisie, Op. 3: excerpts,
Prelude Op. 32 No. 12 in G sharp minor,
Ne poy, krasavitsa, pri mne, Op. 4 No. 4.
|Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky||
None but the lonely heart, Op. 6 No. 6 (Nyet, tol’ko tot, kto znal / Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt),
The mild stars shone for us, Op. 60 No. 12,
Night, Op.73 No.2.
Henk Neven (Baritone), Jan Bastiaan Neven (Cello), Hans Eijsackers (Piano).
Glinka’s hundred or so songs include several settings of his regular opera librettist Nestor Kukolnik. One of the best known is Doubt (1838), a lengthy, intense song about the doubts that overtake a man separated from his lover. The previous year Pushkin had died in a duel and Glinka made three different settings of his short verse Where is our rose?, a lovely miniature about the brevity of life.
Another of Glinka’s major collaborations with Kukolnik was Farewell to St Petersburg (1840), a set of twelve songs. The fifth is Cradle Song, simple and tender, with a gently undulating accompaniment.
Finally, another favourite, Do not tempt me needlessly (1825), sets a typically melancholic verse by Baratynsky. The poet begs his lost love not to cruelly and needlessly raise his hopes. The ebb and flow of the melody traces his fluctuating eagerness.
Prokofiev was a prolific dramatist, writing operas, ballets and film and theatre scores. Diaghilev commissioned Chout (The Tale of the Buffoon) in 1915, but the war delayed its premiere until 1921. A buffoon fools seven others into murdering their wives by promising to bring them back to life. When he fails, he escapes by disguising himself as a woman and marrying a wealthy merchant before swindling him out of 300 roubles. Prokofiev composed typically witty, spiky music for this grotesque story. The cellist Roman Sapozhnikov published these five arrangements in 1962.
Dargomyzhsky’s naturalistic, declamatory style paved the way for Mussorgsky, but he was equally adept at melodic writing. I am sad (1848) sets Lermontov’s lament of a spurned lover, the elegant facade hiding the text’s bitterness until the last repeated line. Nikolai Yazykov’s Elegy (She is coming), is a mysterious tale of intense expectation in a gloomy landscape. Several composers have set Pushkin’s tender The Youth and the Maiden; Dargomyzhsky’s, from the early 1840s, is a gently swinging waltz whose two varying stanzas deftly trace anger subsiding into forgiveness.
The night zephyr (1844) is another hugely popular Pushkin text, set to music by around forty composers. The Guadalquivir is a huge river in southern Spain. The Caucasus has always been a subject of fear and fascination to Russia and Pushkin’s lyric Do not sing, my beauty is as much a reflection of that as a distant lover’s plea not to stir painful memories. Around twenty composers had set it before Rachmaninov and he evokes the oriental with melismata that seduce the declamatory text. The arrangement on this recording transposes the arrangement Fritz Kreisler made for violin and tenor voice to cello and baritone.
Borodin only wrote sixteen songs and these three, all from 1855, employ his own instrument, the cello. Early in his career, Borodin was still imitating popular salon music, but even if they are not very profound, they are charming. The Pretty Girl No Longer Loves Me is another tale of frustrated love, but the hero determines to find consolation in his music, though she no longer likes it. The Lovely Fisherwoman is a short humorous skit, and Listen to my song is a very short plea for sympathy from an orphan.
Some of the best-loved Russian songs are amongst the hundred or so that Tchaikovsky wrote. In Mild stars shone down on us (1886), the poet remembers a calm night full of hope, and wonders where it has gone. The first two verses rise to abbreviated climaxes before the third marks a determined change of direction. But the last returns to the opening despondent mood. The poet Alexei Pleshcheyev was a radical, imprisoned alongside Dostoyevsky, but his later work was less political. Nevertheless, there are lines that could equally be read as contemplations of lost political dreams.
Tchaikovsky wrote Night in 1893, the year he died and in the middle of composing his last symphony. The poem, by his friend the amateur poet Rathaus, features that stand-by of romantic literature, the tortured lover unable to sleep for dreams of his beloved. The turbid, repeatedly sinking accompaniment evokes his troubled restlessness and inescapable weariness.
Goethe’s novel Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre (Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship) helped kick-start the Romantic movement and Mignon’s song Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt (Only he who knows longing) was set by many of the great Lieder writers: Schubert set it no fewer than six times! Tchaikovsky set Mei’s translation in 1869 and it became, perhaps, his most popular song, known in English as None but the lonely heart.